This study examines organizational dynamics, technological affordances and professional challenges of engaged journalism practices by analyzing how Hearken, one of the most celebrated audience engagement companies and its tools and services are being implemented in 15 U.S. news organizations. This framework identifies Hearken and organizations like it as important “external actors” providing technological “actants” that are shaping how newsrooms report the news by providing ways for audiences to be brought into producing the news, particularly during the earlier phases of the reporting process. Ultimately, this study presents a partial update to the decades-long literature on participatory journalism by suggesting that engaged journalism practices actually create opportunities for meaningful audience involvement.
Abstract: This study was written with both scholarly and practical questions in mind. We examined the organizational culture of a sample of 15 news organizations across the United States to better understand how particular factors affect the process of using Hearken.
The Hearken team is proud to have developed a transparent, collaborative, and well-defined system for hiring that attracted a diverse pool of strong applicants. We learned a lot from others out here on the Internet about best practices when recruiting and hiring, so we wanted to give back and share what we learned. Related resources Dodge Foundation, Poynter, and Open News.
Curious City, a series produced by WBEZ Chicago Public Media, invites listeners to participate in the reporting process. Using the Hearken digital engagement platform, listeners ask and then vote on questions that are turned into radio stories. Over a year, Curious City attempted to engage residents of Chicago areas that traditionally had few public radio listeners, mostly stigmatized African-American and Latinx neighborhoods, to participate via face-to-face outreach, outreach via community partners, or social media marketing. Using a communication infrastructure theory framework, this study draws from observations and 25 interviews with journalists, participating audience members, residents of targeted outreach areas, and partner organizations to examine best practices to combine digital and offline strategies, and the importance of pre- and post-broadcast engagement.
When uttered outside of journalism circles, the word “engagement” means something fairly specific involving rings, love, wedding bells, commitment, and the like. If there’s no pathway for input from your audience to shape the content decisions your newsroom is making, then it’s not audience engagement. Engagement happens when members of the public are responsive to newsrooms, and newsrooms are in turn responsive to members of the public.